Liberal interests are fond of sensationalizing the environmental impact of North Dakota’s oil and gas boom. The throw around terms like “industrial wasteland” to inspire fear among North Dakotans that the admittedly rapid build-up of oil and gas development in western North Dakota will have dire environmental outcomes.
But by at least one metric, North Dakota’s environment is doing just fine. Despite the spike in oil and gas development, despite gas flaring so bright that it can be seen from space and despite the presence of seven large coal-fired power plants North Dakota has some of the cleanest air in the United States:
The Peace Garden State continues to receive high marks for air quality, despite dust issues plaguing the western part of the state.
“North Dakota is one of a handful of states that meet all clean air standards,” Jim Semerad, North Dakota Department of Health’s Division of Air Quality Permitting and Compliance manager. “Newer air quality regulations that are in place and enforced and our low population all play into it.”
Eight North Dakota counties were selected for the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Annual Report for 2013, including Billings, Dunn and McKenzie counties, chosen because of their populations and proximity to national lands, all three counties earned “A” grades.
Mercer and Oliver counties, which house five of the state’s seven power plants and the only lignite-to-natural gas synfuels plant, also received “A’s.”
“North Dakotans breathe some of the cleanest air in the United States, in part because of emissions control technologies at the state’s seven coal-based power plants,” said Steve Van Dyke, who is the vice president-communications for the Lignite Energy Council.
AS the article notes, Mercer and Oliver counties are home to most of the state’s coal-fired electrical generation, but it’s worth remembering that the rest of the counties are home to heavy oil activity as well.
Billings, Burke, Dunn and McKenzie counties are all in the state’s oil patch and home to a lot of drilling, pumping and natural gas flaring.
Yet, the air in those places is top-notch. In fact, the only part of the state to receive a B-rating was Cass County, home to zero oil, gas or coal development but definitely the state’s largest population center.
So maybe, just maybe, the dire warnings of environmental doom coming from the left just aren’t based in reality.